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flick pick | Happy Endings 2005
Directed + written by: Don Roos
Starring: Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Bobby Cannavale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jesse Bradford
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama, comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  darkly comic
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis When Mamie Toll was 17, she had a brief fling with her brand new English stepbrother, Charley Peppitone. Mamie got pregnant, and went off to Phoenix to have an abortion. That was the end of their semi-incestuous tryst, but Mamie and Charley stayed close. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Mamie's an abortion clinic counselor with a massage therapist boyfriend named Javier (hence the double entendre of the film's title). She has a deep dark secret that she's been hoarding all to herself -- until one day, a scraggly-haired budding filmmaker arrives at her doorstep, informing her that he knows what she's hiding. With this tidbit of info to extort her, he convinces Mamie to help him make a documentary that'll get him into film school. Charley, meanwhile, now runs what's left of his late father's restaurant chain empire. He's long since come out of the closet, and shares a home with his boyfriend Gil. Charley has his own intrigue to deal with of late: he's started to think that he and Gil's good friends, a lesbian couple, may have lied about deciding not to us Gil's donated sperm to conceive their child. The kid, Charley insists, looks exactly like Gil; Gil's skeptical, but slightly tickled by the idea, and Charley sets out to prove his suspicions. In the film's third storyline, Otis is a misfit loner who works in Charley's restaurant. He's the only son of a very, very wealthy single dad; he plays drums in a band, though his bandmates only really tolerate him because they like practicing at his swank pad. During a karaoke night at the restaurant, Otis watches a girl named Jude get up on stage; she has a great voice, and as it turns out, his band is in need of a new singer. Otis asks her to join the band -- but ends up getting more than he bargained for as she quickly works her way into other aspects of his life.

Review I was never a huge fan of Lisa Kudrow's dim but supposedly lovable Phoebe character on Friends. Far more interesting was how Kudrow also played Phoebe's equally out-of-it but much less pleasant twin sister Ursula, a character that occasionally turned up on Mad about You. Alone, each character was kind of a cardboard cutout but taken in conjunction, there was the hint that Kudrow might actually be kind of an interesting actress. Indeed, her ability to blend blitheness and bitterness has made Kudrow one of the more intriguing former-Friends in big screen efforts: She's the one who doesn't seem to be trying way too hard to be adorable. And in Don Roos' subtly satisfying Happy Endings, in particular, Kudrow's ability to combine prickliness with vulnerability is put to excellent use. (Roos and Kudrow seem a good match; she also appeared in his debut film, The Opposite of Sex.) Kudrow's Mamie keeps her feelings too close to her heart and wears a perpetually sour expression on her face; she's not terribly nice, at least not in the superficial way. And that's okay; her seeming unlikeability is what makes her compelling, and when you do find yourself kind of liking her, it comes as a welcome surprise. Happy Endings actually offers all sort of nice surprises, both in the great casting -- including the normally lovable Maggie Gyllenhaal as manipulative Jude, to the generally repugnant Tom Arnold as Otis' good-guy dad -- and in the quirky plot (though some of the storylines work better than others). Bad folks aren't necessarily redeemed; families aren't joyfully reunited; transgressions aren't necessarily forgiven; people connect and disconnect again. Roos' version of happily ever after always seems to have an asterisk at the end of it. Which makes it exactly the sort of happy ending that the cynical among us can actually buy into. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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